Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Marketing--What Do You Mean by That?

Marketing has been on my mind a lot lately, not in the least because I posted on Facebook about my aversion to it and was immediately jumped on lectured by two authors who feel very strongly about marketing. I ended up pulling my post because of the context and the fact that I didn't want to have a face-off on my FB wall. The reason I'm sharing, though, is because it is this incident that got my thoughts going regarding this blog post.

Marketing. It's starting to make me think of the quote we all know from The Princess Bride: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."


OK, I am by no means a marketing expert. I'm barely a marketing amateur. But I'm an observer, and I've noticed that the definition of the word has grown by leaps and bounds in the world of authors. It now includes everything from our blogs and Facebook pages, to book signings and school visits, to press releases and newspaper interviews, to bookmarks and free online samples... There's also advertising and getting professional reviews. I'd even lump paying for bookstore shelf space (and Amazon newsletter space) in there, and cover art and title choice...and a whole slew of other things.

My point being: When an indie author is asked questions like, "When you hear the word 'marketing,' how does that make you feel?" as was asked on the Realm Makers Facebook page yesterday, the answer tends to be something along the lines of, "Like I've got a freight train heading straight at me." Each one of the cars of the train is filled with those things I mentioned in the above paragraph.

There was a time when authors had to "market" only in the sense of showing up for book events and meeting their fans. Blogging opened the door for connection online, as did Facebook and such, but now it's like, Oh, hey, since you're out there anyway, why don't you just.... And that's not really too bad.

Still, the big presses do way more. They are still setting up author events for the the authors (indies must book their own). They take care of landing those professional reviews (many of which indies have no chance of getting). They provide review copies for bloggers (as opposed to indies who have to provide those copies out of our own pockets). In other words, much of what the big presses do has nothing to do with author presence--it's behind the scenes.

The frustration I'm finding is that there are two sides to this issue, but they keep getting lumped together. And here is where that Princess Bride quote comes in.

Marketing in the personally-getting-in-front-of-readers sense is a totally different animal than the business side of marketing.

I am fine with the first. I like doing signings and author events. I like visiting with students at schools and meeting people at conventions. I was a teacher before taking up writing, so leading sessions at writers conferences and speaking at writers groups is something I actually enjoy.

It is the business end of it that makes me want to throw up. It's setting those events up, and trying to figure out how to increase my reach online, and studying social media numbers and SEO patterns and...and....


For other authors, it is the other way around. They are shy, introverted (I'm introverted but can go into extrovert mode when I put on my teacher hat) and they would rather focus on the behind-the-scenes stuff. Some of them are more business-minded and have no problem dealing with that end of things.

And yes...for some authors (a lot of them, actually) it's both that are problematic.

But my point is: The word "marketing" isn't so easy to define. It's meaning is different for different authors, depending on where their likes and dislikes, talents and weaknesses lie. It's meaning can also vary depending on how the author is published, and who the author's audience is. Yet most of us use it as this catch-all word, and therefore many discussions about marketing and its importance and what authors do/don't or can/can't do end up with everyone talking in circles around each other.

So--what does marketing mean to you?


Anonymous said...

Kat, I hear you. What if I were to show you a way to take what you love into the part that you can't stand so that you will look forward to it as much as you look forward to the part that you love?

Anonymous said...

I don't think the meaning of marketing changes. To your point, marketing is all encompassing. There are endless methods that can be employed to market a book or an author, but just because Author A uses method A and Author B uses method B, it doesn't mean the meaning changes. It's still all marketing.

I know this may be a semantics issue, but think of it as watching cable TV. There are hundreds of channels, and what you watch may not be the same as what I watch. So when asked, "What does watching TV mean to you?", the answers will vary based on our preferences.

I think your question is better posed as, "As a writer, how much marketing are you comfortable with?" The best part is there is no wrong answer.

Kat Heckenbach said...

Gil, I totally see what you're saying. But what I mean is, that it's meaning is different to different authors, so when someone talks about marketing, it's rarely comprehensive--they're usually talking about the marketing they focus on, or what has worked for them, or simply the kind of marketing they are aware of. Those listening, though, have different perceptions.

Anyway, YES, it is all marketing--you are right about that. I just think it needs to be classified a bit more specifically into sub-categories. Particularly when comparing indie and large press authors. That's where a lot of issue comes from. It's like, "hey, you indies, large press authors do a lot of marketing themselves, so quit whining"....but really, they're marketing is a different animal. Indies are expected to do more with less.

CKoepp said...

What I think of when someone says "marketing" is ...

A lot of time consuming activities I don't have time for or don't see the point of because I feel like I'm talking to myself. :P

Yes, I know it's necessary, but I haven't a clue in the universe what I'm doing and sometimes following someone's advice is a lot like trying to make a snowman in August in Central Texas.

Caprice Hokstad said...

I agree with Cindy. It's like being on a freeway with thousands of cars, all going 75 mph, and sticking your head out the window to scream while all the other cars are doing the same thing. You have the illusion that you're talking to thousands of people, but no one can really hear you because they're so busy screaming or trying to watch the traffic so they don't crash.

To answer the RM question, and in keeping with the Princess Bride theme, the mention of marketing makes me feel like the Pit of Despair. It sucked years of my life and gave nothing back. I think I'll quit and go be the Dread Pirate Roberts instead.

Kat Heckenbach said...

What I see in both Cindy's comment and Caprice's...and something I can say I feel as well: Marketing would not be something you'd hear so much complaint about if it were fruitful. Am I right in that?

The part I hate so much about it is that it's an extreme amount of work for little to no return on investment.

CKoepp said...


Exactly! Talking to myself gets old. I don't find myself that interesting to talk to.


Brent King said...

First, I don't let marketing stress me because if my books can bless only a few people in a big way, then they are worth it. I'd have to write them even if no one read them. I leave their success up to God.

Second, having said that, in every facet of life we must do our best and then leave the rest to God. So I do what I can do: a twitter account, a Facebook page, and a blog. That alone can be powerful. (I do plan on doing more of the things you mentioned once I have a larger book base.)

Third, in the reading I've done, I feel like if one focuses on writing killer plot and prose, then the most important thing you can do to market yourself is to be prolific.

But what do I know about it? I've only published one book and a short story. I'm sure I have a lot to learn! =)

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks, Brent. I want to let marketing stop stressing me out. And I do shove it to the back seat at times. I am moving forward on getting another book out :).

Best of luck to you with your books!

Jeff Chapman said...

To me, marketing is being pushy about myself. I don't mind researching how to position works on Amazon or how to get the most out of their system. What I don't like is sticking my name or works in front of people. I feel bad after I send out a couple tweets or do a Facebook post. But those are things I have to do so I grit my teeth and do them. Not sure how I would feel meeting with a group. Other than terrified. : )

Kat Heckenbach said...

Yeah, Jeff, I hate that feeling, like I'm being pushy. The behind the scenes stuff is much better, although for us not-so-techie people that can be daunting for different reasons :P.